Scenic USA - Colorado
|Photos by Bob Goldman|
It was December 18, 1888, when ranchers Richard Wetherill, Charles Mason, and Acowitz, a Ute Indian, stumbled upon the largest cliff dwelling in the Southwest. While searching for cattle in today’s southern Colorado, the three men became awestruck with their new discovery. Once lowered into the cliff dwelling by rope, Wetherill encountered a life changing experience. The party then decided to split up and search for more stone cities, returning to the Cliff Palace by sundown. A jubilant Richard Wetherill returned that evening with a discovery of the Spruce Tree House, another nearby Anasazi ruin.
The Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms, 23 kivas, and a massive stone tower. Thought to have supported a population of 100, today’s evidences places first construction in 1190 AD, and then completely abandoned by 1300.
Wetherill went on to explore a large section of the Four Corners Region, with more discoveries at Keet Seel and Chaco Canyon. Wetherill married and lived nearby Chaco Canyon, exploring the ruins, and promoting the terms Basket Makers and Anasazi for these ancestral puebloans.
To the learned community, Wetherill was looked upon as an uneducated villain, plundering these ancient sites, damaging artifacts and tearing apart structures that stood in his way. Over the years Wetherill has received some acclaim for his archeological work and bringing these ruins to the attention of the American public. With reports of indiscriminant looting, President Theodore Roosevelt helped establish Mesa Verde as a national park in 1906.
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